Blackhawks winger Martin Havlat joined his teammates on the ice at the Edge in Bensenville Thursday for the first time this preseason. Havlat is recovering from shoulder surgery.
He skated on both wing positions during practice and showed some of the skill that has made him one of the best wingers in the NHL. In Thursday's practice Havlat skated opposite Kris Versteeg, who is battling for a spot on the NHL club.
He also took a spill after completing a drill and landed on his left shoulder, but showed no ill effects afterward.
The health of Havlat will be key to the Hawks' playoff chances this season.
If he is healthy and effective, he will take pressure off of youngsters Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Patrick Sharp could also benefit from solid play by Havlat.
The 27-year-old winger has not played in a game since Feb. 27 against Phoenix, when he injured the shoulder again. He underwent season-ending surgery on March 14 and is just now getting back to 100 percent.
Havlat could play in one or two of the Hawks' final preseason games to get ready for the regular season opener in New York against the Rangers on Oct. 10. Until then, the Hawks will be careful with Havlat and try to minimize contact with him.
Depending on his progress and effectiveness on the ice, Havlat could see time on the Hawks' top line with Toews and Sharp, with Kane possibly moving to center the second line. That move could allow Craig Adams or Jack Skille to move to the second line on right wing.